What’s in a Garden? #1

“If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it

in a very real sense. ‘Green fingers’ are a fact, and a mystery only to

the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.”

~~ Russell Page in The Education of a Gardener


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East 70th Street garden at the Frick Collection; drawing by Russell Page.

Throughout Summer 2015, the Russell Page-designed garden at the Frick Collection, on East 70th Street, has been alive with punchy colors of green, purple, white, and much more.

Over the next few weeks, we’re taking a closer look at the harmonizing horticultural components in Russell Page’s design. Our source for botanical knowledge: the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, which provides an unsurpassed wealth of information for all gardeners, from novices to experts. Thank you to the AHS for its support of the Unite to Save the Frick coalition!

We’ll begin with the basics. Then, with each new installment, we’ll focus in on one of these plant types and look at how they’re employed in the East 70th Street garden, contributing to the overall design.


  • Long-lived, woody perennial plants, usually with a single elongated stem
  • Show significant variation in shape and stature, ranging from only 3 feet high to over 300 feet


  • Woody-stemmed plants, often with several or many stems freely branching from or near ground level
  • Typically reach no taller than 20 feet in height, with the majority of species substantially smaller in stature


  • Self-clinging, twining, ascendant, scrambling, or trailing plants that attach themselves to any surface that offers support
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From “The Gardens of Russell Page,” courtesy of photographer Marina Schinz.



  • Herbaceous plants that form flowering stems each year before seeding, die back to ground level in autumn, and sprout new growth in spring
  • Substantial range in height, from low-slung ground cover to feature plants over 8 feet tall


  • Annual plants that complete their life cycle, from germination to seed production, and die within one year
  • Biennial plants are flowering plants that complete their life cycle within two years, normally producing foliage in their first year and bearing flowers in the following season


  • All plants that grow floating, rooted, or submerged in water and are categorized according to the depth of water in which they grow best, measured from the surface of the soil around a plant’s roots to the surface of the water

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